Hockey or figure skates?

One of the most commonly asked questions I hear as a Learn to Skate Director is “Should I start my child in hockey or figure skates?” My answer is always “It depends”.

In general, most Learn to Skate coaches recommend starting a child out in a figure skate regardless of whether they want to ultimately play hockey or continue with figure skating. The primary reason why has to do with the blade.

Picture a rocking chair: the more curved the rockers on the bottom, the more the chair will rock back and forth. The flatter the rockers, the less rocking. Ice skates are the same. The blade on a hockey skate is more curved and therefore has more “rock”. Younger skaters (3-5yrs old) who are not quite fully in control of their bodies tend to fall more from rocking forward and backward, thereby getting more frustrated and discouraged and wanting to quit. The blade on a figure skate is more flat and also has a toepick, enabling the skater to find the center balance point more easily, which is essential to learning the basic skills.

However, that said, there’s no reason why a child can’t learn to skate on a hockey blade. It might take a little bit longer, but it’s definitely doable. If your child has already decided they want to play hockey, then start them off in a hockey skate. If he or she struggles, consider switching them over to a “learning skate” (don’t call it a figure skate). Once they’re stronger and have mastered the basic skills, switch them back to a hockey skate. There will be a period of adjustment, but they will pick it up more quickly.

If your child isn’t sure or just wants to start off learning the basics, then start them off in a figure skate. They can always switch to hockey later if they choose.

When deciding hockey vs figure skates, think about what your child’s ultimate goal is and be flexible along the way. It is important that the child has fun but is also building a solid foundation.

–By Amy Fairchild, Skating Director at the International Skating Center



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